A Dictated Lent

Catholic Dukies,

Lent has taken on such incredible new meaning, I can only imagine what Holy Week will bring. I will admit that I have not felt this Lent to be the opportunity to draw closer to Christ in the Church that it is intended to be. Most probably, as I reflect on the past two weeks, Lent has been dictated to me rather than me dictating what Lent will be and that is why I have found it a bit out of sync. How ironic that I am more willing to embrace penitential practice when it is what I decide it will be rather than when it has been thrust upon me.

The nature of the suffering that Jesus endured for our sake has special significance when it is examined from the perspective of his “knowledge” and “will” of what was to come. These two dynamic mysteries which are wrapped up marvelously in the fully human, fully divine Jesus of Nazareth, can become a speedbump that we run over quickly, leaving the disruption to our system in the rearview mirror. But what does it mean that Jesus “knew” the suffering that was coming his way and what does it mean that he freely “willed” it?

I am not sure I can hope to answer either or both of those questions in some simple way. As I remember Christology courses from my seminary days, those questions are the stuff of fierce debate and examination. But since everything in the life of Jesus has some real life application to all of us in myriad ways, I am left wondering what I “know” of the suffering to come and how I might “will” it so.

These past two weeks have given me a glimpse into the challenges that are almost certain in the weeks to come. And based on these last two weeks, I am not sure I am open to “willing” it so. This isn’t the Holy Week I had in mind. This isn’t the call to conversion that I would more graciously “will”. And yet, this is what is before us. This is the Holy Week we are being asked to acknowledge and willingly accept. In this way, and in this way alone can we unite ourselves more closely to Jesus who shows us what it is like to embrace sacrifice for a greater good. It is more than a choice of restricted activity. It is a choice of the heart. That is what is pierced on the cross. That is redemptive love. I know it, help me Jesus to will it.

Fr. Mike

fr.mike@duke.edu  c. 919-316-8763 / w. 919-684-1882
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